Tunisia: President’s Migration Comments Raise Risk of Backlash for Black Africans

by | Feb 24, 2023 | Security, Social, Tunisia


On 21 February 2023, President Kais Saied made controversial comments regarding sub-Saharan African migrants to his National Security Council, attributing the influx of migrants to a conspiratorial effort to transform Tunisia’s demography and detach the country from the Arab and Muslim nations of the world. His comments have sparked outrage from many, and support from others as the conversation around irregular migration converges with the country’s economic woes.

In recent days, several hundred sub-Saharan Africans have reportedly been arrested by Tunisian authorities, including many with legal status in the country for work or education. Sub-Saharan African migrants have reported increases in verbal and physical abuse from authorities and the Tunisian public.

Numerous governments, organizations, NGOs, and associations have issued statements expressing concern over the situation. The African Union strongly condemned the statements and summoned their Tunisian representative. Some organizations have advised sub-Saharan Africans in Tunisia to stay home for the time being. Meanwhile, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Mali, and others have announced plans to facilitate repatriation for their citizens in Tunisia.


Sub-Saharan Africans and black Tunisians face a decidedly increased risk of verbal or physical assault in Tunisia at present, in addition to the potential for incarceration and questioning by the authorities. The President’s comments come at a point of extreme frustration and uncertainty for many Tunisians and create the potential for viewing migrants – legal, irregular, or otherwise – as responsible for the situation. Our team is continuing to monitor the evolving threat environment, particularly that faced by sub-Saharan Africans. The potential for the deterioration of the rule of law poses risks for those in Tunisia, particularly as the environment becomes conducive to extrajudicial activities.


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